Monday, August 23, 2004

REOhead versus Cold Journey

Radiohead and Cold Play are two of the biggest rock bands in the world and I can't stand them. The music's dull while it attempts to be grandiose. The singing is whiny and the lyrics try too hard to be obscure. I know I'm in the minority, but somebody has to take a stand against this type of music even if I do get stampeded by all of their fans on their way to buy more merchandise. I've put together some lyrics to demonstrate the barren thought of both bands. Let's play a game called who wrote what lyrics? Radiohead or REO Speedwagon, Cold Play or Journey:

I’ve been trying to make it home
Got to make it before too long I
can’t take this very much longer
I’m stranded in the sleet and rain
Don’t think I’m ever gonna make it home again
The mornin’ sun is risin’
It’s kissing the day

Do not speak as loud as my heart

Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me
Oh and I rush to the start
Running in circles, chasing our tails
Coming back as we are

Nobody said it was easy
Oh it’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I’m going back to the start

My lady's beside me, she's there to guide me

She says that alone we've finally found home
The wind outside is frightening
But it's kinder than the lightning life in the city
It's a hard life to live but it gives back what you give

It’s the best thing that you’ve ever had, the best thing that you’ve ever, ever had

It’s the best thing that you’ve ever, the best thing you have ever had has gone away

Don’t leave me high, don’t leave me dry
Don’t leave me high, don’t leave me dry

Can you tell who did what? It's all pretty banal when it's stretched out like this, so it probably is a little unfair to pull a Steve Allen trick like this. But what do I care? It's my blog and I can cry if I want to.

Off the subject of music I don't like and onto the subject of bigotry. I grew up here in the South and I heard the "N" word just about every day as a child. I was taught that blacks were not completely human. I was taught to be a hating automaton like others my age. Yet, I escaped such stupid thought and it wasn't just because I'm a bad student. I just never bought such backward ways. I judge people on their actions and words and not upon appearances or money, that's the bottom line. The US has come a dramatically long way since my childhood in racial relations. I rarely hear outright racism among the people I know, but just last week I was reminded of how things used to be.

The office I work in recently fixed the telephone system where we could listen to a local top 40 station through our desk phones. One of my office mates complained about the song playing, it was "Hey Ya" by Outkast and a lady nearby exclaimed, "You don't like that jig music." I was struck dumb having never even thought about what evil lurked in her heart. It makes me wonder about bigotry. How deep would one need to go to scrape off what surely is a thin veneer in some? The backward folks are out there, especially in this small town of Smithville.

Hope still burns though. My mother who is nearing 70 was raised in Mississippi. She grew up as a sharecropper's kid which meant picking cotton from sun up to sun down. This was the Mississippi of segregation and hate crimes. My grandmother once told me the tale of a young black man lynched by a mob on the public square. My mother grew up with institutionalized racism and she used the "N" word during my upbringing, often in the context of using blacks as scapegoats for our own problems.

Recently I drove her down to Mississippi for a family get together. Out of the blue she started talking about black people. I was concerned that some bigoted tirade was brewing, but I was wrong. "I've been reading the Bible for years and I can't find anything in there that says we're better then anybody else. I think blacks are just like us," she said. I agreed with her and inwardly I was so proud of her I'm surprised I kept the car on the road. If my mother could change her views, maybe there's hope for my office mates and maybe hope for the word.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Sportsman's Paradise - Smithville, TN

I live in the town of Smithville, Tennessee. It's the county seat of DeKalb County. There are numerous counties across the US named for the German, Johan DeKalb, who was a hero in the Revolutionary War. I don't know how it's pronounced elsewhere, but you can tell a person's a local if they say "de cab". Other signs of a local citizen: They call Hurricane Bridge "Hurrakin Bridge". There's a fairly large hill which splits Smithville from the western half of the county. A local never says Snow Hill. It's called Snow's Hill. If you live in the western half you are said to be living "under the hill". Center Hill Lake dominates the north of the county and a lifelong resident would know right where I was headed if I was going to "redneck beach".

I didn't grow up here so it's been a bit weird getting to know folks since I moved here 4 years ago. They always expect you to know the county and the people as if you've lived here your whole life. They find it strange that you don't know where the "crossroads" is or that you didn't know somebody from DeKalb County High School when it was obvious you're close to the same age as them. Then there are those that question my Southern heritage when I speak. I don't have enough of an accent for the area even though I was born in Memphis and raised for most of my life just a couple of counties over in Murfreesboro, TN. When I visited New York City some years ago the people I was with thought my accent was extremely Southern. What would they think of the citizens of Smithville?

Some definitely speak with a drawl, but most have what's called the Midwest television accent. I have learned some things I never knew like "might....might's grow on chickens" and the exclamation "hairy fire!" among a few. The anti-smoking brigade has not made a dent here. The stands at tee-ball games are filled with parents smoking. Convenience stores and restaurants are filled with smoke. If a place is non-smoking you can bet you will have to push your way through the smokers congregating at the door.

Congregations are another way one is judged in this small town. I attend church every once in awhile, but like Grouch Marx, I am wary of any club that would have me as member. The people that attend regularly treat the churches like social clubs. Where you attend or if you attend can have big importance in your life. Lucky for me, my only ambition is to coach my daughter's tee-ball team.

Politically, as a Libertarian, I can't go far in a yellow dog Democrat county. The local radio station has recently conducted a poll to see if the county is conservative or liberal and conservatism is winning by a landslide, but odds are good that Kerry will win the county in the fall. It is fun to see such ardent church goers try to rationalize why they back the Democratic party, but it's like shooting fish in a barrel. It's easy to get cynical in a place where only 3% of the population has a college degree. Not that having a degree makes one that much smarter, but there is often a lack of shared experience.

I don't hunt, and I prefer to fish streams instead of speeding around a lake in a bass boat. That's why Smithville is called a "Sportsman's Paradise". The lake is tremendous with miles of shoreline cutting through the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau. These hills are loaded with deer, wild turkey, and raccoons. The town doesn't have a book store, but there are two hunting shops. So, why do I live here?

I live here because I work here. I live here because my wife is from here. I live here because the people are friendly, at least until they find out you don't know about so and so and you should. My daughter's enjoy their life here. The scenery is fantastic. I don't like crowds and a town of 5,000 and a county of 25,000 is not crowded. I get to travel for my job, but not so much that I'm never home. There are larger cities close enough for day trips. Ultimately, one has to live somewhere and this somewhere is laid back enough for me.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Whack Your Yappin' Dog

"We'll crawl through your backyard and whack your yappin' dog" - X

I could have used John Doe and Exene Cervenka last night. It's a rule that the dog barking at 3 AM will always find me and then wake me up. A neighbor's mutt yapped for an hour and my sleep was ruined. And it's not the first time. I always wonder why my neighbor never wakes up. To the dog's credit, it's a loud and forceful bark. After the image of me shooting the stoopid animal with a pellet gun faded, the strains of X's "We're Having More Fun" ran through my head like a skipping record until I finally drifted off. My eyeballs feel like boils and I'm exhausted, but here is a promise for the next post: I'll break down what it's like to live in a small town with such a mundane name.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Soulfish Stew Is Born!

Back in my college days I spent alot of time day dreaming and drinking, so various ideas would pop in and out of my mind. One idea that bubbled up was making a fanzine similar to Cometbus to document my perpetually alienated mindset. That particular fanzine never went beyond the idea phase, but its title was to have been Soulfish Stew. I can't recall very much meaning in the title, except that I liked the way it sounded. I later did achieve my dream of ink glory with a short lived free 'zine titled ANTI*SOCIETY that was distributed at Lucy's Record Shop in Nahsville, TN during 1994. It garnered rave reviews in issues of Flipside and Grand Royal Magazine. It was a hand made cut and paste 'zine devoted primarily to music and I loved making it, but I got a full-time job at another local record store, Phonoluxe, and I just didn't have the time to devote to it.

I hope to recapture that love I had crafting a 'zine with this weblog. The topics will be where ever my head is at - for any given time. I'm all over the place with my likes and dislikes. I can come off sweet and nice, but I can be acerbic and just downright mean sometimes. Soulfish Stew is primarily for me, but if others find it enjoyable I'll be very pleased. I hope to make an interesting and readable stew. The college era drinking may have stopped, but the day dreaming has not.

wally bangs